Editors' pick: Originally published Nov. 16.
You're a savvy professional who's had a LinkedIn account for years, but are you using your profile to its fullest potential? We're not here to tell you that you've been using LinkedIn wrong this whole time, but rather that there's so much more you can do with your LinkedIn profile than you might have realized.
"I think a lot of people create a LinkedIn profile at the beginning of their career and might go in and update it when they get a new job," says Amy Ogden, vice president of brand development for J Public Relations. "LinkedIn should not be seen just as an online resume to get a new job, but a professional and consolidated place to showcase your work in your industry as you're connecting with others to build your brand."
Considering there are more than 450 million LinkedIn members worldwide, it's more important than ever to get away from the stale resume rehash and find ways to make your profile stand out from the rest.
"Ultimately LinkedIn, like all social media, is about starting a conversation, so include profile elements that encourage that," says Jennifer Fishberg, owner of Career Karma, which offers professional resume writing and LinkedIn profile writing services to clients.
Ready to make your LinkedIn profile come to life? Here are 10 tips from career experts that can help you get started.
Does the headline on your LinkedIn profile simply state your current job title and company, like "Account Executive for XYZ Company" or "Marketing Manager for ABC Inc.?" If you really want to stand out, skip this dull approach and instead play around with your headline to make it more interesting.
"Your headline is the most 'prime real estate' on LinkedIn, because it's the first thing people see in a search result and when you comment on others' status updates and posts," says Julie Bondy Roberts, founder of Coming Alive Career Coaching, LLC, which offers LinkedIn profile optimization, LinkedIn workshops and private career coaching. "If you only have your job title and name of company, that won't help differentiate you from the pack."
Bondy Roberts says that hiring managers and recruiters typically don't type in company names when searching for candidates, so including your company name in your headline might not help you. "They plug in keywords like 'process improvement' or 'lead generation,' along with job titles, to find someone with a particular set of skills," she explains.
When writing your headline, Bondy Roberts offers this formula to follow: Enter your job role (it doesn't have to be exactly what's on your business card) + industry keywords to help you come up in search results + a branding statement that reflects how you provide value to an employer. For instance, she suggests changing "Category & Channel Manager at Office Depot" to "Award Winning Category & Channel Manager | Multi-Channel Marketing | Invigorates Brands, Sets Retail Strategy for Growth."
While the words you use on your profile will certainly have an impact on people, you should also choose a head shot with care. Whether you like it or not, people will make a quick judgment on you based on your picture.
"Take the time to add a really clear, clean, striking head shot," says Leela Srinivasan, a former LinkedIn employee who is now the chief marketing office for Lever, a software company that provides an applicant tracking system and other tools for hiring. "It doesn't have to be professionally done, but your photo is the visual manifestation of your personal brand on LinkedIn. Pictures that are blurry or obviously cropped from wedding photos feel lazy."
LinkedIn also offers the option to add a background photo, and career pros say you should take advantage of this often-overlooked feature.
"The background image affords you the additional opportunity to make your profile stand out to visitors," says Brent Broadnax, managing partner of the digital marketing agency NerdBox. "This new feature on your personal profile homepage should not be ignored because this feature is underutilized by most users and affords you an additional opportunity to brand yourself."
Consider what type of impression you want to make when choosing a background image—just be sure that whatever image you choose isn't distracting and that you have permission to use it, says Broadnax.
Your LinkedIn page shouldn't be a regurgitation of your resume. Instead, take a more conversational and personal approach as you describe yourself and your accomplishments.
"I cringe when I see profiles that include no more than a chronology of places worked," says Michele Mavi, director of internal recruiting and content development at Atrium Staffing. "You have so much space before anyone even sees your work history. Utilize it to authentically tell the story of who you are."
Srinivasan says that people can make themselves "instantly more relatable" by writing in the first person.
"Telling them what I do and what I care about can help me seem more real and approachable," Srinivasan says.
What's the point of having a LinkedIn account if nobody can find you? You can increase the likelihood of coming up in search results by incorporating keywords throughout your profile, including in your headline, summary and work experience sections.
"Drive traffic to your profile by adding keywords that recruiters will search for," says Cheryl E. Palmer, owner of the career coaching firm Call to Career. "You will show up on the first page of results for whatever keywords you choose if you have enough of those keywords on your profile. Recruiters are likely to contact those candidates whose profiles show up first in a keyword search."
For instance, if you are an IT specialist, Palmer suggests using keywords such as "user support," "issue resolution," "troubleshooting," "configuration of laptops and PCs," "IT conversions" and "installations."
Instead of simply telling people why you're great at what you do, consider showing them what you've accomplished by adding multimedia to your profile.
"LinkedIn allows you to add images, sound bites, video, PDFs and PowerPoint presentations to your profile as a way to add context and color to your words," says David Perry, managing partner of the executive search firm Perry-Martel International. "This can be a powerful way to reinforce the skills and experience you describe."
If you do decide to use multimedia, just be sure to keep a few caveats in mind: "Only use good quality images, and don't flood your profile with masses of content because generally less is more," says Perry. "If you're adding videos, make them short and snappy. Your audience is unlikely to have the patience for a 15-minute epic, however cleverly produced it might be."
Recommendations go a long way, so be sure that your LinkedIn profile contains at least a few glowing reviews from people you have worked with who can vouch for your skills, leadership style, professionalism and character.
"Having recommendations on your page demonstrates your credibility and allows you to stand out among your peers," says Amanda Helfand, senior associate director of Undergraduate Career Services for Bentley University. "When you work closely with a manager, colleague or group member, ask if they would be willing to write a recommendation for you. Rather than limiting yourself to only those who have worked with you in a job or internship, consider your volunteer experiences, co-curricular activities and projects."
If you feel awkward about asking for a recommendation, you might want to consider writing a recommendation for someone in your network first before asking for one in return.
Don't just create your profile then walk away.
"It's important to remember that static content alone, no matter how well written, isn't enough to get you noticed," says Fishberg. "Engaging regularly with your network will increase your profile views. 'Like' other people's posts, share status updates and industry information and help connections when you can by sharing resources or job leads. That simple step alone will put you ahead of the many people who take a 'set it and forget it' approach to LinkedIn."
It's also a good idea to join LinkedIn groups related to your industry to get to know people in your field.
"Going further than simply joining groups is engaging in them—this can be on a weekly or monthly basis," says Taylor Dumouchel, a career and hiring expert at Peak Sales Recruiting. "A simple way to do this is to comment on an article a recruiter has published or shared. This is a way to demonstrate thought leadership, display engagement and create a more natural relationship should a recruiter ever reach out to you."
Did you know that you can reorder most sections of your LinkedIn profile to emphasize certain aspects of your background?
"For example, you may not always want the Experience section to follow the Summary directly, so move sections up—like Projects, Publications or Volunteer—if the information there will better highlight your expertise and accomplishments," says Alyssa Gelbard, founder and president of Resume Strategists, a career consulting and personal branding firm. "Ordering information strategically can strengthen your career story and personal brand to create an even stronger first impression."
To reorder a section of your profile, go to "Edit Profile," then hover your mouse over the section you want to move. Next, click and drag the vertical arrows in the top-right corner of the section, dropping the section at the place on your page where you'd like it to appear.
LinkedIn automatically assigns profiles a URL that consists of a series of random numbers and letters. To make your profile more personalized, take advantage of the feature that allows you to create your own URL.
"This is one of the easiest things anyone can do, but so many people don't even think about it," says Valerie Streif, senior advisor for the career counseling firm Mentat. "Your LinkedIn profile URL needs to have your first and last name, not a jumble of code, in order to brand you properly and show that you take your online presence seriously."
To change your LinkedIn URL, select "Edit Profile," then underneath your profile picture, click the "settings" icon next to your current URL. You'll then be taken to your public profile. On the top right of the page, click the "edit" icon next to your URL, then customize the last part of your URL (after www.linkedin.com/in/) so that it contains your name.
Once you've created your personalized URL, consider including it on your resume so that it's easier for hiring managers to find you on LinkedIn.
This sounds like a no-brainer, but many people make the mistake of leaving out their contact information on their LinkedIn profile.
"If I can only reach you through LinkedIn and we're not connected, that limits my ability to reach out and I like people who make it easy to connect," says Ogden.
Be sure to include the contact information you're comfortable sharing with current and potential connections, such as your email address, phone number, Twitter name and website. For safety reasons, it probably isn't necessary to include your home address.